You are not your name: The Even More Woke New York Times ponders identity erasure

As Andrew Sullivan noted, describing the migration of college students into the media workforce, “We are all on campus now.”  And, as I’ve been describing in the last few days, the mainstream Left media, like the Washington Post and the New York Times, is become thoroughly and irremediably campus-style woke. This will not abate: wokeness is a one-way ratchet to pure authoritarianism. And so the NYT, like the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and New York Magazine, is becoming strikingly similar to the newspaper of a progressive college like Middlebury or Williams—except that its “campus” is the entire country.

Take, for instance, the article below by writer Jami Nakimura Lin, in the Times’s “parenting” section. Lin rabbits on at great and tedious length about how to name her child from a multicultural family. The word “erase” in the title is a clue to wokeness, as the word is firmly ensconced in the argot of the Offense Culture, and most often means nothing except “I’m worrying that people will forget about me.” In this case, it doesn’t even mean that, for whatever Ms. Lin names her daughter, it’s not going to “erase” Lin’s own identity. She’s still alive and young and has years to establish her identity through her own acts.

Read and cringe. This is the kind of article you’d expect to see in HuffPost, not the good (?) gray Times:

Lin is an American of Japanese and Taiwanese descent, while her husband is white and Jewish. In such a case, what do you name your child? Well, you can mix its ancestry among different names, for one thing, and that’s what they did:

When I (a Japanese-Taiwanese American woman) married my husband (a Jewish white man) I kept my last name, wanting to maintain that visible part of my identity. Our background and cultures are important to both of us, so when our daughter was born, we chose her names carefully — so carefully that she ended up with four names. Her first name honors my dead father, Charlie. Her first middle name is both Hebrew and Japanese, her second middle name is my Taiwanese last name, and her last name is my husband’s Germanic last name.

That seems a fair solution, but there are two complications. First, the child’s appearance is largely white, which to Lin is apparently “problematic”:

At first I thought her four names were a beautiful compromise. But at 18 months old, her eyes are bluish-gray, her hair is light brown. While I’ve tried to wrestle with what it means for her to appear so light in a society that hugely privileges whiteness, I’ve grown more uneasy about her name. Her first and last names, the most salient parts, look and sound as white as her features. This might seem like a benefit at a time when racism against Asian-Americans is rising again. To me it seems like a loss of the part of her that is me, of the part of her that is our history.

But if the child appeared Asian, would it be any better to have an Asian first and last name? After all, her ancestry would be written on her features.  And above the first accusation of racism surfaces—a necessary part of such an article (the link goes to an article about coronavirus).

So, if her child’s first and last names are “white”, and she looks white, well, you have to fix the names. So we get more agonizing:

Armed with newfound regret, I asked my husband what he thought about switching Lin to be one of her last names. Though he agreed, we haven’t yet taken the plunge, partly because I’m daunted by the bureaucratic process, and partly because people have warned me about the dreaded hyphenated last name (“It will take so long to fill out forms!”). When I’m being indulgent in my daydreams, I also want to give her a fifth name, my own middle name, as well. Sometimes I convince myself that all of this sounds rational.

All is well; the husband agrees that Lin can be part of a hyphenated last name. But that’s not good enough because of bureaucracy, and so comes the weighing of a fifth name to ensure that everybody knows that this white-appearing child has Asian and Jewish genes.  And no, Lin’s angst is not rational. It’s self-indulgent whining. Why didn’t she just stop writing when she realized she wasn’t being rational, or, better yet, deep-six the entire article?

Nevertheless, Lin persists, going back deep into her family history, bringing up the incarceration of Japanese American during World War II—an horrible historical event, but one that doesn’t need mention in this article except to remind people of bigotry against Asians (which Lin doesn’t seem to have experienced).

In the end, it becomes clear that Lin is trying to name her child for two purposes that seem a bit weird. First, to remind the child of who she is. Well, a child is more than its genes, and of course you can always tell a child about their ancestry (I think ancestry is overrated, but that’s another issue) without hanging five monikers on the poor thing.

But, and more selfishly, Lin admits that this endless agonizing about names is Lin’s own way of both controlling who her child becomes (how this would work is unclear), and also ensuring that the child knows who she is.  To wit:

When I wonder, When will she know who she is? I also mean, When will I know who she is? Daily we accumulate data. Stuck at home in the pandemic, we watch her develop with the precision of zookeepers overseeing a caged animal: the way my gestures are refracted in her wild, lumbering movements, the way she modulates her reactions to what my husband finds most hilarious. Our daughter, our tiny mirror. Perhaps this choice is so fraught because our names — mine, my husband’s, our daughter’s — are functioning as proxies for not only our cultures, but ourselves. Underneath the question, Should we change her name is the question, Can we control who she becomes? I equivocate so long over the former because I cannot yet face the answer to the latter.

What a thicket of self-indulgence we must chop our way through here! The answer to Lin’s question in the penultimate sentence is clearly, “no, you cannot control who your child becomes.” You can try, but I believe statistics show that a child’s character is formed more by her peers than by her parents. I’ve known tons of parents whose children have not turned out to their liking despite all their helicopter-parenting. And you certainly cannot control who a child becomes by giving her five ethnically diverse names in the vain hope that the child will become a  pentacultural being. In the end, Lin is using her child to perpetuate Lin’s own identity, a strange and solipsistic notion if ever there was one.

I can’t restrain myself: Lin’s piece is pure, unadulterated tripe, an embarrassment to the New York Times—if the paper is even capable of being embarrassed these days.

Not only that, but there went 1200 words that I didn’t need to read. (Well, I guess I did to monitor the Times‘s fulminating wokeness). And 1200 words the paper didn’t need to print. Truly, this is an article that should have been put in the circular file, for what needs erasing is not Lin’s identity, but her piece. And so we watch what was once America’s paper of record turning into the HuffPost, and it’s both sad and frustrating. What can we read now?

 

93 Comments

  1. William Boecklen
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Why stop at five names? Let’s go for an even dozen.

    • Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Why not, indeed. The Royals do it all the time.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Here is the thing for me on this one. All the wokiness about this would not bother me because I wouldn’t read the article. Funny thing though – as I was reading this posting a pop up arrived say the Dixie Chicks had changed their name to just Chicks. Coincidence or what?

    • Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Jebus!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Ha ha – someone needs to complain about “chicks” because it’s sexist.

      • davelenny
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention the avian appropriation!

      • uommibatto
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        This just in: the “Dixie Chicks” will now be known by the politically correct name:

        “”

        Larry Smith (that’s my name)

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted June 25, 2020 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

          This seems like a good place to recommend a Connie Willis story, published in the late 1980s(!), which predicts the effects of woke whininess gone out of control. The title is “Ado” or “Much Ado about [Censored]” (it differs in different reprintings) and, as you might guess from the title, concerns the effects of grievance-based whininess and identity politics on a production of the play by Shakespeare. It is hysterically funny, and simultaneously sobering/scary. Your “” reminded me of it.

          The story’s isfdb page provides a list of places where it’s been reprinted.

      • Posted June 27, 2020 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

        I was thinking of doing so, as a Poe.

    • Adam M.
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      I guess that’s like Lady Antebellum changing their name to Lady A… eh?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 26, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        As someone who studied Latin for a long time, I knew what antebellum meant and had no idea it was referring to the civil war because it didn’t have that “civil” word in it.

  3. Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    This is the ultimate in selfishness! Woke or otherwise. The little girl is just that, a child. She needs nurture, she needs to know why she was given the name she was given when she asks. All the parents can do is give her the best they can at any given time with what they’ve got to work with. When she grows up, she may want to change her name. Big Whoopdidoo. So what? I always wanted to be Margo, but never got around to changing it.

    Perhaps I missed something somewhere along the line, but I always thought raising my children was to do my best to make them self-sufficient, to encourage them in whatever their chosen field might be, to love them. When my son wanted to change his name, I said I’d pay for it. He changed his mind. Maybe Ms Lin should spend more time worried about the astrological sign her daughter was born under than how either herself or her daughter will be seen, remembered, identified. (I really didn’t write that about the astrological sign, did I? /headbang/headbang/)

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I think when she referred to her daughter as her and her husband’s “little mirror” it said everything. It’s borderline narcissism. Let the kid form her own identity. She’s not a mirror, she’s a real person.

    Incidentally, my name does not reflect my whole ethnicity either as my father was adopted but I like my name because it belongs to me even if it’s superficial to associate a name with who you are. Funny enough, when I complained that an admin at my ophthalmologist had been rude to me, huffed when I didn’t get out of the chair fast enough after she had dumped eye drops all over my face and bellowed for the next person to come in before I could get up (and I’m not exactly elderly so I wasn’t exactly slow), the ophthalmologists reply was, “humpf, angry Scottish blood” (and she’s a POC). Well, that really pissed me off. I wanted to tell her, “I’m mostly Irish – are you going to throw me into a paddy wagon? Racist much?”.

    • Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure the qualifier “borderline” is necessary here.

      • dabertini
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Bullseye

    • eric
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like my cousins. “Mc” became “Mac” for them probably way back around the turn of the 19th-to-20th century, when their great-greats emigrated. We think to avoid the stigma of being Irish in the US at the time. That info was then lost for 50+ years, only to resurface a decade or two ago. I think they figured it out before genetic testing, so likely what happened is some old fogie finally confessed to the truth or possibly they found some old letters etc.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Mc and Mac are really the same thing with variations on a spelling anyway.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          I always thought the ‘Mc’s were Irish, while the ‘Mac’s were Scottish.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

            Yeah people thought that for a while but it’s really just a variation on the spelling. MacPherson and McPherson are the same.

        • Posted June 26, 2020 at 6:07 am | Permalink

          This Scot agrees.

    • Posted June 25, 2020 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Be careful of that little mirror – it shows the unvarnished truth. And yes, little kids are very mirror-ish. Your spouse can point to the kid when the kid does as you do, and say, “see, when you say that, it *does* sound angry!” And you will be forced to admit it, if only to yourself.

    • Posted June 26, 2020 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      Nice rant, MacPherson 😉

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 26, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        🙂

    • Posted June 27, 2020 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      Your children are not your children,
      they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
      They come through you but not from you,
      and while they are with you they belong not to you.
      -Khalil Gibran

      But I wouldn’t worry. This kid will soon erase her parents by denouncing some petty thing they did or said as the latest installment of racism/sexism/otherism/ableism or whateverism.

  5. Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    This is terrible though we’ve read much worse. I imagine their child eventually saying, “Mom! Please chill!”

    Although we have to fight this Woke way of thinking (or not thinking), I have to think that some of this stuff appearing the NY Times and others MSM sources is just their attempt to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. They simply recognize there’s a market for this crap and attempt to satisfy it. Since much of it is only available online, it doesn’t cost them that much to supply it. This article is just not aimed at non-woke evolutionary biologists, or retired computer software guys for that matter.

    • eric
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      I imagine their child eventually saying, “Mom! Please chill!”

      Yes. I remind myself that children always find something to rebel against in their parents’ generation. Hippies beget yuppies beget grunge beget woke. I anticipate much schaudenfreude will be had when woke lefties kids’ grow up and – very likely – reject their parent’s wokeness as uncool.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Wokeness is as cool (or uncool) as the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. I know, I’m exaggerating, but only ever so slightly.

        • Max Blancke
          Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

          One aspiring to emulate the Red Guards should know today’s word, which is-

          Rustication

      • Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Let’s hope so and do what we can to hasten that day.

  6. Simon Hayward
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    With a mother this insecure I worry for the child. The rotor blades of the helicopter parent are already turning fast.

  7. Mark R.
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Wow, talk about a control freak. I don’t think this lady is mature enough to be a parent.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      I almost wrote exactly that.

  8. Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    So, the Times is publishing parody pieces now? Look out Onion!

  9. darrelle
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    As a parent, I’m torn between laughter and snorting in disgust.

    Though I must confess, my wife and I also had a hard time settling on names, especially for our daughter. Though the problem in our case was that she and her brother were born 2 months premature, and it happened without warning. We just hadn’t yet selected names.

    One evening 2 or 3 days after they were born, as I was lying with my wife on her hospital bed talking, an official walked into the room and sternly told us, “Okay! We can’t wait any longer. You have to give me names now. I’m not leaving until you give me names.”

    The pressure was horrifying. Thank goodness we chose right. We almost chose Ariel as a first name *shudder*. I think my daughter probably would have killed us in our sleep by now if we had.

    • Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      I hope you didn’t name her Karen. I feel sorry for all the Karens of the world having their name turned into an insult by Gen Z.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        LOL

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        I know! I was thinking about that. Thank goodness I’m not named Karen. I’m even worried about getting a haircut that even remotely resembles a Karen type haircut.

        • Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          You’d be okay Diana, as long as you don’t ask to speak to the manager.😀

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

            Ha ha. I worked service type jobs in my youth and I’m scarred from it so I never ask that.

        • Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          There’s a Karen-type haircut?

          • Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            The “classic” Karen.

            • JP415
              Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

              It reminds me of the floppy ears of a cavalier spaniel. Cute!

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

              Yep. I have seen women with this haircut. I don’t know why anyone would want a haircut like this but sometimes I fear the bob cut will get mixed in and there are lots of bob variations.

            • Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

              Hmmm. Not a fan.

            • jedijan
              Posted June 25, 2020 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

              Remember when long out the back and “business” at the front meant it was a “mullet?” Perhaps this is the “codfish” version lol. I know someone who has this style … Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Pity the poor African American women named Karen.

      • eric
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        We were thinking of naming my kid Ana Sophia had he been a she. We rejected it on account of it would’ve given her the initials ASS.

        But looking back, I’m glad for another reason.

        Sooooo many Sophies…

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

          The ASS initials are funny though.

          • Doug
            Posted June 25, 2020 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

            The kid would have been the butt of a lot of jokes.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 26, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

              Rimshot.

      • Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Sounds like the seed of a much better article than this one. One about trying to avoid naming your child in order to avoid tomorrow’s “Karen”. Of course, there have be a huge number of articles on naming your kids.

        • Posted June 25, 2020 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          i wonder if “Amy” will be the next Karen, after Amy Cooper who called the police on the black birdwatcher. But who doesn’t love Amy?

      • JP415
        Posted June 25, 2020 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        The Generation Z equivalents to “Karen” would be “Tyler” and “Bella.” E.g., your daughter spends all her time posting selfies on Instagram, and you tell her, “quite acting like such a Bella!”

        • Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          Never run in to a Bella. Lots and lots of Tylers, though.

          • JP415
            Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

            The Bellas might be too yet. “Brittany” is probably closer to the mark.

          • Barbara Radcliffe
            Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

            One of our cats is called Bella. Quite a good name for cat!

            • Posted June 25, 2020 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

              Or perhaps No Bella if the fable is to believed.

  10. eric
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Ah, rich people problems.

    Lin is an American of Japanese and Taiwanese descent, while her husband is white and Jewish. In such a case, what do you name your child?

    Whatever name the two of you think fits best? How about ‘a name you both like’? Frankly, just that simple condition can sometimes be hard to meet.

    It’s a bit facile, I’ll admit, but I think PCC is spot on in saying you’re not going to – and you shouldn’t even actively try – to manipulate your child’s personality or sense of identity through their name. Just name them something nice.

    I totally get the angst over ‘which last name,’ given the traditional American/English system is blatantly patriarchal. However it sounds like in this case that isn’t a major issue, as her husband appears to be on board for whatever. Good for him, I hope they come up with a solution they both like.

    My kid became obsessed with his heritage when he was 5 or 6. We ended up tracing back 4 generations or more on my side. He now knows my mom’s grandparents’ names, dates, and history better than I do. Trust me Ms. Lin, your child not having your last name or your mom’s last name or whatever is not a barrier to her understanding your family’s role in her heritage.

  11. neil
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    it doesn’t really matter what they call the child; in fifteen years time they’ll just identify her as “you ungrateful lazy wretch! tidy your room! make something of your life”

    And the kid will refer to them as “shuttup! i hateyou i hateyou!”

    🙂

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      😀

    • eric
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Not true! A good rolling set of names makes it much easier to yell their full name at them. You don’t want to be stumbling over syllables when their minor annoyance suddenly escalates into full on, “three-namer” misbehavior, now do you? 🙂

      So, maybe that’s another good rule of thumb for naming. Make the full name something you like to say, because you may be saying it a lot.

      • Posted June 26, 2020 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        My family disability re: names is not related to using all three names of a child, but in going through all the previous generation’s names for a child before hitting on the correct one for your child. It seems to be a genetic problem in that my mother, I and my daughter have all done it. Let’s say I have a male child named “Adam”. But, when I call him, I may first use his grandfather’s, father’s and uncle’s names before arriving at his.

  12. Historian
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I may be in a minority, but although I have studied history all my adult life, I have never been particularly interested in my ancestry. My “identity” was shaped by my parents, acquaintances, teachers and genes. From them I developed my identity, which I take to mean what I think about myself and how I interact with the world. My ancestors (beyond my immediate family) played little or no role in this except passing down genes.

    I have a theory as to why so many people are hung up on their identity. This theory may be all wet, but I think it has some validity. Humans have a basic need for self-esteem. All too often, they feel on a psychological level that their level of self-esteem is not where they would like it to be based on individual accomplishment. Thus, they look to external sources to bolster what they are lacking. These sources, of which there are many, could include one or more of the following: race, religion, ethnicity, nation, cultural background, place of employment, or even a sports team. Their self-esteem rises as they identify with the supposed accomplishments of the group, even though they contributed little or nothing to the group’s successes.

    In my estimation, this need to reach an acceptable level of self-esteem through identification with an external group is the source of much conflict in world history. Because of the psychological benefits provided by the group, people will do whatever the group wants, through the dictates of its leader, even if it means going to war, engaging in other acts of violence, or just wishing ill on those who are not members of the group. As a result of these human needs, I think the prospects for a harmonious and peaceful world are remote at best.

    • denise
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      On my neighborhood website last week I got to see an example of the tribal arising out of thin air.

      Two groups formed over the issue of firecracker noise – the complainers and the anti-complainers – and started attacking each other. Everyone aligned with a side. One anti-complainer actually described her group as the good, tolerant and empathic people and the other side as bad people, and proposed that they should organize to drive the others off the site. I told her irony was dead and left.

      It was fascinating, hilarious and very disturbing at the same time. The post is still active but I can’t look at it.

    • Max Blancke
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      I have to know the history of everything. I am often astounded when I visit a business in some historical building and the proprietor, when asked, has no idea whatever of the buildings age or history.
      I understand that their lack of interest is normal, but I could never be like that.
      I am lucky enough to come from a family that has stayed in close proximity to each other and on mostly the same land for over 300 years. So our history is sort of unavoidable. I find it comforting rather than restrictive. There is a feeling of continuity to the experience if sitting under a tree planted by my great great grandfather, which he planted knowing full well that he would never sit in it’s shade.
      For us, all the kids grow up doing all the expected outdoor ranching/ mountain type activities, then get sent off to good schools. Usually, they find a career that is opposite to or at least far away from how they grew up.
      But most return. If you had asked my Dad at 25 if he would ever plow a field again, he would have laughed at you. The same goes for me. But here we are.

    • Posted June 26, 2020 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      My mother always had an interest in family, both genealogy and keeping track of all the relations. In the 1960s, I had a cousin who was putting together a genealogy and Mom was a record keeper she approached for help. Mom decided to rope me into helping, and I’ve had an interest ever since.

      Unfortunately, on my Dad’s side of the family, my great great grandfather was an orphan. In that family, my grandfather and grandmother were first cousins, so I’m stymied on both sides with the orphan and can trace no further back.

      On my mother’s side of the family, one branch was German and I can trace them back to my great great grandfather in Tennessee. But no one in the family has solid proof of the lineage before that. There were some individuals who came by ship to New Amsterdam (pre-New York) who have variants of the family surname that there’s solid evidence for, but from them to my great great grandfather, no solid proof.

      Trying to fill in the gaps, over the years trying to learn if they have any of the pieces I’m missing, I’ve communicated with many relatives I’ve never met. My husband accused me of having a “Family Bush” instead of a “Family Tree” because of this.

  13. A C Harper
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Snowflake Snowflakedottir?

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Worth spitting my coffee – thanks

    • jezgrove
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      But only if they have Icelandic heritage or it would be cultural appropriation…

  14. Laurance
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness! A Blast from the Past for me!

    The sociologists Luther Lee and Jessie Bernard were professors at Penn State when I was a kid. Their daughter was my best friend.

    I looked in Wikipedia and read that their third child was born in 1950. Luther Lee died in 1951, so Wikipedia says. I was nine years old at the time so my memory is not clear at all, but I have the memory of the child’s birth being connected with his father’s death somehow – birth and death happened very close to each other.)

    In any event Luther Lee had decided that if the baby were a boy he’d be David. And indeed the baby was born and was indeed a boy,

    But Jessie didn’t like the name David, just wasn’t big on that name at all.

    As far as we kids were concerned his name was Anonymous. That’s what Jessie called him. Yep. Anonymous Bernard, and we called him by the nickname Nonny.

    Of course little Anonymous had to have a real name for his birth certificate and eventually we had to get used to calling him David. But he was Nonny for quite some time.

  15. Kathleen Vincent
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    My mother is deeply connected to her Irish ancestry: All six of her daughters have Irish first names, St. Patrick’s Day was a holiday in our house, Irish folk songs, cooking etc. Imagine my surprise when I lived in Ireland in the early 80s to discover that in fact I am an American.

    She is not too disappointed I didn’t carry on many of those traditions with my kids. To avoid the dreaded hyphen I let my husband choose, before we married, our last name.(I honestly didn’t have a preference.) He choose his and I named the kids after my Moms side of the family.

    Weirdly, this got a lot of push back from his side of the family! “Why did she get to name the kids?”

  16. JohnE
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we strove to focus on our commonalities, instead of obsessing over maintaining our differences? Isn’t “coming together” a more admirable goal?

    We used to refer to America as a “melting pot.” Now some apparently prefer more of a “stew,” with every bit of meat, potato and carrot insisting on maintaining its separate identity.

    • Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      More like a TV dinner: everything in its own compartment and none of it very appetizing.

  17. John Dmytrenko
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Yikes. This is more nonsense from the all encompassing, woefully inadequate discipline called Theory. I would call it a fad, but it seems to be rather fit for survival. The idea that the names given to her child will plant the seeds for her development is highly suspect and sounds like what a lot of Theorists refer to as the performative power of language. The notion is that language has the power to mold people into whatever identity they, or perhaps someone, prefers. Frankly, it is hard to believe that the article is even real and not some satire. Can’t the newspaper of record find more talented people? How much money do they make? I think the world would be a better place if these folks would quit their jobs and play Fortnite all day. Btw, imagine someone naming their kid Albert Einstein and he turns out to be an idiot. P.S. this joke has had to have been used in some form before and I apologize in advance if I stole it.

  18. Posted June 25, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Names are just labels. They may tell you something about your heritage or they may not. My family name is Portuguese and I remember being terribly embarrassed about it when I was a child, even though, thinking back on it nobody else cared. My brother tracked down the origin of the family name to an immigrant in the 1780’s, one Ricardo Pereira.

    Anyway, I read this bit

    My family left Japan 112 years before my daughter was born. The connection sometimes feels tenuous.

    Of course the connection is tenuous. It’s pretty obvious to me that her daughter is an American, not Japanese or German or any of the cultures her immigrant ancestors belong to. I think she should celebrate her daughter for what she is, not for what her ancestors were. She is the future, not the past.

    • Posted June 25, 2020 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      There are many famous Portuguese Brits. David Ricardo among the greatest. Also Peter Sellers, IMO perhaps Britain’s greatest comedian. Most people do not know he was of Portuguese descent, great-great grandson of Portuguese-Brit Daniel Mendoza, champion boxer. There are many others. Apparently there was a talent drain from Portugal to Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries.

      • TJR
        Posted June 26, 2020 at 7:38 am | Permalink

        And of course Ricardo Pereira now plays at right back for Leicester City, though currently injured. Excellent player.

  19. jezgrove
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    My mother’s parents named their children the traditional way: their first boy was given the father’s name and the first girl was given the mother’s name. In time, of course, having two pairs of people in the family with the same names got complicated, so they became Big Earnest and Little Earnest etc. And any post without the correct title could belong to any of them, as all four had the same first initial and surname, and no middle names. Nevertheless, they managed to retain a sense of identity – I guess they were made of stronger stuff back then!

    • max blancke
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      My wife’s family names their first born male after the child’s father, but with first and middle names reversed.
      It seems to work fine for them, with the added bonus that objects inherited from their grandfather are often already engraved with their name.

  20. Max Blancke
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    To a toddler, not having a particular toy right now is just the end of the world. But we all understand that toddlers are not capable of seeing their situation in perspective, because they have none.
    I expect adults to have developed perspective, both through their own experiences, and having an understanding of at least the history of their own family.
    Looking at her biography, she has written a book on Japanese internment, which includes interviews with her grandfather, who was interned.
    Perhaps she did not absorb the right lesson from that.
    She should be thankful that she lives a life where she has time to obsess over such trivialities.
    Unfortunately, self absorbed folks rarely show humility.

    My suggestion for a name is to avoid something that the child will have to repeat twice or spell out for the rest of their life.

    I have some friends who are progressive Oregon types. They combined and hyphenated their last names, as a fair way to adopt the same last name. My first question was “what do you think your kids will do when they get married?”. I don’t think they had considered that.

    • Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      As a former toddler, I take umbrage at your remark. That I wanted a particular toy was a perfectly reasonable perspective given MY circumstances, just not that of my parents.

  21. JP415
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    While I’ve tried to wrestle with what it means for her to appear so light in a society that hugely privileges whiteness, I’ve grown more uneasy about her name. Her first and last names, the most salient parts, look and sound as white as her features.

    Uh oh! Let’s get that kid to a racial-sensitivity training course right away. Robin DiAngelo could come to her preschool and hector the children about unconscious bias.

  22. Tim J Reichert
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    “Our background and cultures are important to both of us’

    Well there’s the problem right there. Accidents of birth should not be important to you. You only think they are important because you have been told they should be important to you by people who are flat wrong about that.

  23. revelator60
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    I hope I live long enough to see the hell the small children of today will put their parents though when they grow up. Watching Generation Woke get roasted the Boomers are today will make me cackle until the cows come home (or the reaper).

  24. Posted June 25, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Thankfully, children are resilient, and this will here transfer to resilience against the pretend suffering of the parents.
    This child will most likely grow up without a hint of any emotional scarring.
    How tragic.

  25. Posted June 25, 2020 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    “wokeness is a one-way ratchet to pure authoritarianism.”

    Actually I think it’s at least as likely to result in schism, or perhaps simple extinction. Given the business climate for newspapers today, my money’s on extinction.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted June 25, 2020 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      I’m with PCC(E) here; so much so that I added that quote to his Wikiquote page.

  26. Roo
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    I was kinda confused by this piece, in that she never answers the question “Can we control who she becomes?”. I assume the reader is supposed to infer that the author is realizing that no, of course they can’t, meaning that much of the piece was a reflection on how parents obsess over these details that don’t impact things that much in the long run anyhow? But that seems at odds with the rest of the article, so genuinely not sure about how to interpret it.

  27. John Reynolds
    Posted June 25, 2020 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    My employer is Chinese as is his wife. He came to this country in 1984 with no money in his pockets. He was just thankful he had pockets. He and his wife named their daughter Selena. That’s it. End of story. No Times story necessary. Move along please.

  28. Posted June 26, 2020 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    How DREADFUL! The narcissism of some parents never ceases to amaze me! And this terrible journalist – with a bonkers obsession with race and ethnicity. Jesus.
    Not ALL parents are raging narcissists but goodness – enough of them are.
    Like Pinker, (and you) I don’t have any children “and if my genes don’t like it they can jump in the lake.”
    As can Ms. Lim Nakamura.
    D.A., J.D., NYC

  29. Adrian
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    They should adopt the naming conventions of Spain and Portugal. While many people know that the Hispanic naming convention is for the mother to keep its surnames and for the kid to use the father’s surname as its first surname and the mother’s surname as its second one, the reality is more complicated. Every Hispanic is supposed to carry an infinite list of surname. The children get their infinite list by alternating the father’s and mother’s lists starting with the father. Due to limitations in paper, we use only the first two with official character.

    There you go, problem solved. You’re welcome, Ms. Lin!

    P.D: There’s a folk explanation that says that this naming convention, unusual in other European countries, arose in the XVIth century in a climate of suspicion and prosecution of fake converses of Jewish and Muslim origin. By allowing people to traverse their genealogies you could rule out accusations of non-christian ancestry. I’ve never verified if this is true.

  30. Bob
    Posted June 26, 2020 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I would not worry too much about the child’s name now. The neighborhood and school friends will probably take care of naming later. Don’t be surprised when your daughter comes home and informs you that her friends now call her Butch.

  31. Posted June 26, 2020 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Most children I’ve read about, met or known are never happy with the names they’ve been given.

    My son was given a first name that his Dad and I liked and as a second name an heroic one to live up to. (My parents thought it sounded like a “n****r” name.) Both daughters were given first names we liked and second names selected differently. The first daughter’s second name we jokingly said was selected for a queen. The second daughter’s second name was selected by her Dad and Dad’s boss from a drawer in a file cabinet that contained names on records. Since my husband and I hadn’t agreed on a second name before this daughter’s birth, when he mentioned it to me in hospital, I thought it was a name he liked and said, “OK.” It wasn’t until later that I learned how it was chosen.

    In my parent’s generation, children were named for their parents with both names. So, I was named for both my grandmothers. I was given my Dad’s Mom’s second name as my first name (She was glad because her first name was “Daisy” which she said was an old cow’s name.) My second name “Lou” was a shortened version of my Mom’s Mom’s second name “Louella”. They thought that calling me “Rowena Louella” was not a good idea.Thank goodness. I had enough trouble with the name Rowena.


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